On Wednesday, Hugh Hefner passed away at the age of 91. He will best remembered for building the Playboy media empire, but lesser known is that he was also one of the original supporters of marijuana legalization.
In Hefner’s own words, “I don’t think there’s any question that marijuana should be legalized because to not legalize it, we’re paying the same price we paid for prohibition. In other words, it is a medical concern and should be handled that way.”
When NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was founded in 1970, Hefner was one of its first supporters. He gave the political nonprofit a $5,000 grant.
“At a time when most Americans were accepting the government’s ‘reefer madness’ propaganda, Hef, through the Playboy Foundation, provided NORML with our initial funding in early 1971, and became our primary funder all during the 1970s,” wrote NORML’s founder Keith Stroup. “And by focusing attention in Playboy Magazine on some of the most egregious victims of the war against marijuana smokers, he helped us convince millions of Americans that marijuana prohibition was a misguided and destructive public policy.”
In fact, cannabis culture itself owes a great deal to Hefner. High Times Magazine, founded in 1974, was modeled as a cannabis-themed knockoff of Playboy Magazine. Both magazines played parallel roles in changing public perception of both pot and sex, normalizing both in popular culture.
Hef’s cannabis advocacy didn’t just end in the 1970s. In 2010, he was also quoted as saying, “Smoking helped put me in touch with the realm of the senses. I discovered a whole other dimension to sex.”
As Hefner figured out, cannabis is a well known aphrodisiac. Whether you’ll miss him in the media space or could do without him, there’s no denying the contributions he’s made in the mainstreaming of both sex and cannabis.